IGN Review of Over the Hedge: Hammy Goes Nuts
Over the Hedge for the DS was a surprisingly solid title from Vicarious Visions that combined excellent gameplay and tons of charm. It was one of the best licensed games ever, and one of the better games of 2006. To mark the release of the Over the Hedge DVD, Amaze Entertainment has tried their hand at the title, with Hammy Goes Nuts, a stealth action title focusing on the beloved squirrel. On one hand this is a completely new adventure, with new missions and characters. On the other hand, it's about as much fun as getting mauled by Vincent the bear.
Hammy Goes Nuts picks up sometime after the events in the first Over the Hedge game. All the animals are enjoying their lives, happily robbing the stupid, overindulgent humans of snacks and the occasional television set. However, the newest animal to the cast, Boris the Beaver, has other plans. Boris wants to build a giant dam, but he needs the tools. So what do the animals do? Well they don't go raid the nearest neighbor's garage and get the tools there, oh no! They instead traverse the neighborhood, setting up elaborate traps for the pest control guy to walk into so they can steal his tools. Maybe it makes sense if you're a beaver.
Cynicism aside, the premise does open the game up some zany adventures with the little furry critters, if only it was done well. Unfortunately all the levels are the same. Players control Hammy as he runs around the area, picking up objects and carrying them over to other places. After he completes all the objectives, he moves on to the next part of the level, where Hammy
runs around, picking up objects and carrying them somewhere. The whole game is like this. Hammy finds a shovel, brings it to a pile of dirt. Hammy finds a spray bottle, brings it to a birdbath. Hammy finds a pair of underwear, wears it on his head to carry it to a bathroom. The whole game is a string of tiny fetch quests. Each level has three parts to it, so there's room to mix up the gameplay, but that doesn't happen.
The entire game feels like it's trying to get by on its cuteness factor alone. Sure, the whole thing is adorable, with the little-talking-animals factor pretty high. Unfortunately, there is absolutely no voice work, and all the characters do is make pretty generic squeaks when they get hurt. In between levels the main characters plan out their next mission and converse with one another. The bottom screen shows the map, while the top screen shows the main characters from a bottom-up view. It's a pretty good use of the dual screens, and the characters are presented well. Hammy's eyes dart around, looking at his friends, the map, and everything in between. The other characters also have their own simple animation that captures their personality well.
In fact, the entire game makes a pretty substantial use of both screens. While players control Hammy on the bottom screen, the top screen shows a map of the area, complete with markers for the level objectives. There's also a snoozing human for each level, with a dream bubble showing how many sheep they've counted in their sleep. The sheep act as a timer for the levels, disappearing as the humans get closer to waking up. The layout is pretty good, but the touch screen controls are wonky. Moving the characters around is awkward, and they'll often bump into things and stop unexpectedly. Likewise, trying to interact with any object takes multiple tries because the touch screen is unforgiving. This becomes a major pain in the butt when players are trying to steal as many items as possible in a short period of time. Using the touch screen is nice, since it is a DS game, but the controls would have felt a lot more natural with the D-pad and the buttons.
Even if the controls were flawless, it wouldn't change the fact that Hammy Goes Nuts is a snorefest. The environments are dark and uninspired, not making for very interesting missions, despite the developer's attempts to make the game exciting and suspenseful. Any sense of realism is completely thrown out the window by the bizarre security devices in the levels. Take the first level for instance. Hammy has to collect a leather jacket and a wig so that he can wear them and sneak past the "Rock Star Detector" that is guarding the other room. Yeah, some guy in the suburbs has a scanning device that detects rock and roll musicians. The game also has more laser grids than Mission Impossible, yet keys are just laying around in people's front yards.
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